Thursday, December 1, 2016

Refinish, Refurbish, Repair, Repeat!

The Villa del Vigneto construction is lagging and dragging behind schedule. Although I shouldn't say "schedule" because I don't have one. I'm making forward progress, but it isn't the progress that I thought I'd be making by now. You may remember that my first speed bump appeared when I realized that I couldn't put the ceilings on the first level because if the ceilings were on, I wouldn't be able to reach the back walls to do all the fiddly things I needed to do. So I held off on the ceilings and concentrated on finishing the back walls. 

Except that I found it impossible to just STOP when the back walls were complete. One wall led to another, as they will insist on doing, and before I knew what I had done, I had completely finished the kitchen, the dining room, and the foyer of the villa. But all that is just as well, because the next speed bump is the LONG delay on shipment of some light fixtures and lamps that I ordered in early October. I definitely need to get the wiring done on those lights before installing the ceilings. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in even thinking about ceilings. (Impatience rears its ugly head.)

So - I've been concentrating on refinishing, refurbishing, and repairing various furniture pieces and completing, against my better judgment, the dining room and the foyer, in addition to the kitchen that I finished in September. (See "A Tale of Two Kitchens" from October 1, 2016. I still don't know how to create a LINK!)

This was last month's project - except for the pitcher on the right side of the table; that was the one last thing I needed to complete the back wall of the dining room. The pitcher (I'm sure there's a better name for it, but I can't think what it is at the moment) came from an antique store in Corrales, New Mexico.

And that's when I lost all reason and went on to finish the whole thing! I started with these pieces: an unfinished buffet, an Italian sgabello chair that looks way too new, and an estate-sale settee that's way too green.

I painted the buffet, aged the chair, and reupholstered the settee. All ready to go.

Here are some additional make-over projects: two of the dining room chairs that I've had for years and years were broken; the wood on the two new brocade chairs was a bit too shiny, as was the dining room table. Disregard the brass and silver pieces on the floor; I decided not to use them.

Make-over complete! All the pieces have been aged, painted, or mended as needed.


A close-up of the buffet that holds the cappuccino machine, some pretty Italian pottery, and several bottles of (Italian) wine.

This is a straight-on view of the complete dining room. (Except, of course, for the chandelier and the ceiling!)

A view looking towards the wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen and the loggia.

This view looks through the arched doorway into the foyer.

The narrow wall between the two doors was the perfect spot for the interesting sgabello chair. (I hope it never needs to be used for extra seating; it looks very uncomfortable!)

This metal chair came from an estate sale and needed a little work.

I used a piece of ribbon to reupholster the chair. This is my second attempt, because I stained the ribbon with glue on my first try. Then there wasn't enough ribbon left to choose a smaller-scaled portion of the pattern. 

The chair rests against the staircase wall, along with a carved "stone" table that once belonged in a "fairy garden." I added some gold paint to trim the table. There will eventually, in the fullness of time, be a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. I also hope to find an umbrella to join the walking sticks in the large urn.

And now - this big stack of upper-level walls and lower-level ceilings awaits my attention. Working in our garage, I barely succeeded in finishing all the cutting, stuccoing, and sanding while the November weather remained unseasonably warm in Nebraska. I sanded the last piece late on a Thursday afternoon, and by Friday the cold had arrived! But before I begin painting that stack of walls and ceilings, I must first complete the FINAL back wall - in the living room. (Will I be able to stop with the back wall? I think not. What do you think?)

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy December!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Another Unreachable Wall

Construction on the Villa del Vigneto is moving along, but it's moving along slowly - thus another short post. But I did accomplish a few things. I've moved from the kitchen into the dining room, where the "unreachable" back wall presents the same problem that I had in the kitchen. Furnishing that back wall before the ceiling goes on has been my focus. 

These glass-fronted cabinets have been packed away for a long time, but they still look very new.  Too new. They need to grow much older in a short time.

I aged the cabinets with fine sandpaper and dark stain in select spots. I didn't want them to look shabby - just well used. Then I had fun filling the shelves with an assorted collection of objects. 

These ornate pedestals were in a box of things that I found at an estate sale; I'm not sure of their original purpose. They may have been intended for use as plant stands.

However, I had a different purpose in mind, but I needed to shorten them and cut out the center dowels. The pedestals will show up a little later in their repurposed form.

This is a 6" square of loosely-pressed cork. I was searching for something that I could use to contrive a marble tabletop; this seemed to have potential.

I cut the cork into a rectangular shape, then rounded off the corners.

I painted on an overall base coat of Antique White and pounced on Frosted Cranapple and Light Cinnamon. (That sounds very autumny and good to eat!)

I used plain white paint for the veining, following some of the natural lines in the cork.

The top seemed a bit plain, so I found a beaded chain and painted on a thick coat of bronze.

After I glued the beading around the edges of the tabletop, I sprayed the whole thing with several coats of polyurethane. 

The final step was to glue the tabletop to the pedestals, which have become (voila!) the new table base. I did, of course, forget to take a picture of the right-side-up version.

For a long time, I had been looking for two urns to place on the tops of the two dining room cabinets. I hadn't come across just the right thing, but I wasn't concerned; after all, there was lots of time before I would be ready to furnish the dining room. Then suddenly, there wasn't any time left - I needed those urns now! That unreachable back wall had to be finished. So off I went to Hobby Lobby, where I found two drawer pulls that might possibly resemble pottery or porcelain and were the right size and shape. I bought them and came home to look around for something that would serve as the lids, since I had my heart set on lidded urns. And amazingly, I remembered that I had seen two things a week or so before that I couldn't identify, and when I asked Robert what they were, he said they had been left behind by one of the men working on our new kitchen. He didn't know what they were for. I saved them in a plastic bag. 

So the two mystery things have become (voila!) the lids for the urns.

I painted the urns and lids a deep green and added gold and white to highlight the pattern...

...and the lidded urns are ready for the dining room cabinets.

After I added a lamp to the table, the back wall was finished! (Except for One Other Thing that I need for the table, but I have a little more time to find that Thing.)

Another view of the dining room back wall.

I did find some time to continue cutting the walls (and doors, windows, and arched openings) for the villa's upper level. I feel as though I'm in a race against the onset of cold weather. I do NOT want to work in the garage in the cold! But I still have all the stuccoing to do, which requires much drying time. And of course MUCH SANDING! Will the mild weather hold? Will I be out there turning blue and numb with cold? Will I shelve the whole villa project until next spring? Stay tuned.

One of the things that delayed progress on the villa this month was a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Robert was enrolled in a three-day cooking class. He is now well versed in the art of cooking red chiles, green chiles, corn tortillas, and chile rellenos. YUM!

Our visit happened to coincide with Albuquerque's annual Hot Air Balloon Festival, so we enjoyed the sight of hundreds of balloons floating high over the Rio Grande Valley, watched over by the Sandia Mountains to the east of Albuquerque. 

The blue, blue sky made a perfect backdrop for the colorful balloons

We brought back a souvenir - also colorful. We found this windmill at an Albuquerque antique shop. It's now anchored firmly in Robert's small garden at our Sandhills home.  We're hopeful that the rapid whirling motion of the blades will help deter all the critters who want first dibs on our garden vegetables. (I know, I know; wishful thinking!) But it's a fun thing to have, anyway.

I hope you all have a Happy November.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Tale of Two Kitchens

Just when I was almost ready to install the villa's lower-level ceilings, I made a disturbing discovery. I realized that when the ceilings were in, blocking much of the access to the back walls, I would be unable to reach in far enough to arrange all the tiny accessories that I needed on shelves, cupboards, and on the walls. My two previous styrofoam houses measure several inches less in depth than the Villa del Vigneto, so furnishing and accessorizing those rooms after completing construction hadn't been an issue. This was a new problem, and the only solution was to delay the ceiling installation and move on with accessorizing and partially furnishing the rooms. 

I decided to begin with the kitchen, since there were all those shelves waiting to be filled. Fortunately, I've been collecting kitchen things since before I began construction on the villa, so at least I was prepared for the premature "moving in." 

I had forgotten that I had SO MUCH STUFF packed away - all of it tiny, most of it slippery - and each piece required being secured in place with a dollop of sticky wax. That took much time and patience, and of course I loved every minute of it!

Well, I wasn't completely prepared to move in! I had all the pieces of kitchen furniture that I needed; but the hutch was unfinished, the table needed a different finish, and the icebox was damaged and needed new handles. I mended, refurbished, and refinished the pieces as necessary.

Here are the same furniture pieces after their make-over.

I found these very shiny chairs (the shine doesn't show so much in the photo) at an estate sale, but I can't remember where I bought the chopping block.

I aged the chairs and the chopping block along with an unmatched chair, a pie board, and a cutting board, but I forgot to take "before" photos of the last three items.

I first intended to only partially furnish the kitchen, but so many of the things would have been harder to secure (all the wall-hung pots, for instance) once the ceiling was in place. I finally decided just to do the whole thing and hope I don't make a mess of it when I install the ceiling. So I spent more time sticking down many more tiny things. (And I was still having a good time!)

A view of the hutch wall. I found the green platters in September during the annual Nebraska "Junk Jaunt" - 300 miles and 3 days of garage sales, including vintage, primitive, and antique items. The platters are slightly larger than scale, but I couldn't resist them. 

The sink wall and shelves from above.

A top shot of the hutch and the icebox...

...and of the range wall.

As you can see, the villa kitchen is very rustic and has not been modernized in keeping with the rest of the villa. Rudimentary plumbing has been installed, and electricity was recently added, but the old wood-burning stove and the outdated icebox have remained, at the insistence of Magda, the old cook who has been with the family for many years. Magda is an excellent cook, and if she chooses to nurse along the temperamental stove and deal with the regular deliveries of heavy blocks of ice, then so be it. Magda is a highly appreciated and valuable asset to the family; no one is willing to thwart her culinary preferences!

And so we will leave Magda to perform her wonders in the villa kitchen, while we move on to another time, another place, and another kitchen. 

Some of you may recall that I spent some blogpost time bemoaning the inconvenience of our real-life kitchen renovation. It wasn't even much of a renovation; the original kitchen is only eleven years old, so it wasn't necessary to change any of the appliances or cupboards. But my husband, like Magda, is the family cook, and an excellent one. Like Magda, he is the ruler of the kitchen; and I am not willing to thwart his culinary preferences! 

Robert's main preference was to have more preparation space. Our original countertops, shown above, consisted of a standard height counter abutted by a raised bar-height counter. Robert found that the raised portion prevented his "spreading out" as he worked. He also preferred to have more seating around the counter, since that's a gathering spot for friends and family while he cooks.

After the renovation, the new quartz countertop is not only flattened out but is slightly curved on the seating side, and is also 18" wider at the widest point. The end of the counter was also extended to allow room for two additional seats. Robert likes the backless stools as well; the space appears less busy. 

Another view of the four "old" bar stools. Our grandchildren (and sometimes adults, too!) were constantly banging the backs of the stools together as they swiveled. For my part, I was just thankful and relieved that there was still space to retain the loveseat in front of the window; that's my favorite corner to sit and sip wine when Robert is cooking. The space was intended for a "breakfast nook," but I prefer the loveseat to a table and chairs.

The six new stools swivel to adjustable heights, but they swivel so quietly! The color scheme for our very open floor plan in the kitchen, living room, and dining room is sage green (as you see on the walls,) deep red, and eggplant. We used an eggplant color to paint the new cabinet base. 

This is my "other" corner. Since I'm the clean-up lady, I admit that I spend as much time here as on my comfy loveseat. Robert is usually, but not always, a tidy cook. Sometimes it's a challenge to keep up with him. The above photo shows the old countertop.

This new view hasn't changed much; the sink is now under the countertop, which does make clean-up easier. The new faucet is taller than the old one, and the counter is now less cluttered and provides more working space. We moved all the coffee apparatus into the adjoining pantry, which now holds our coffee bar. 

Here is the old pantry - actually a mud-room sort of coat closet that I could sometimes keep organized. I sometimes lost control.

The folding doors on the closet were always at loggerheads with the door into the kitchen. 

The entire closet was torn out and the kitchen door removed. The above photo shows the new plumbing for the bar sink. Electrical outlets have been installed for the coffee makers.

All the old wire shelving was removed from the upper portion of the closet as well.

And at last we have a new coffee bar, which saves much space on the kitchen counters. There is also ample space to store many of our large pieces within easy reach and in plain view. No more searching, rummaging, and shifting objects around to reach what we need! The tile backsplash was made from tiles that were left over from the original construction in 2005. We knew the number of tiles required would be very close to the number available - but when the backsplash was completed, there were TWO tiles left over! Too close for comfort!

Whew! What a lot of work to create/renew two kitchens at the same time! There's a surprising amount of effort involved in planning, organizing, watching, and waiting for first one thing and then another, whether the kitchen is life-size or miniscule. But the important thing is that all the effort was definitely worthwhile: both Magda and Robert are happy in their respective kitchens, and their culinary creativity is unthwarted. So I'm issuing a standing invitation for you to come visit either kitchen, whatever its size, and whatever its place in time or space. I promise you a memorable meal!